Triple AMA champion Ben Spies completed a close rookie one-two by finishing less than 0.2sec behind BSB champion Shane Byrne after three days of official testing at Portimao.
“For sure it was good to be here and get more time on the bike and work with the team, the rain was a bit dodgy so it's been frustrating to get some decent track time,” admitted the American, who made three MotoGP appearances for Rizla Suzuki last season.
“In the first of the new format Superpole test sessions on the last day we were quickest, unfortunately for the second session it rained and I didn't want to do anything silly so didn't push too hard.
“We worked on some settings over the test and got down to some pretty quick times. We got to try a few things with the bike and made a big step up, taking half a second a lap off, but the weather didn't allow us to get more,” he added.
Whilst new Sterilgarda Ducati rider Byrne is at least familiar with his 1098 machinery, Spies has switched brands, teams and championships for 2009 - with another notable unknown being Yamaha's all-new 'uneven firing' R1 motorcycle.
Since the previous South African test, the factory-backed Yamaha Italia squad had boosted power output from the R1, helping it claim the highest top speed at the Portimao test.
And, speaking at the conclusion of his third WSBK test, Spies felt confident enough to declare 'we've got what it takes to win'.
“The bike's got good straight line speed now and we're continually improving. I'm very confident we've got what it takes to win,” he stated. “The team have been great, we're working really well together. I'm looking forward to getting to Australia and getting stuck in again!”
Spies and team-mate Tom Sykes (fourth fastest at Portimao) will now join most of the top riders in testing at Phillip Island ahead of the March 1 season opener.
“The test went well, unfortunately the weather was bad every day and we only had two practices in the dry,” said team manager Massimo Meregalli. “But anyway, no matter what the conditions we were in front, in the top five. We didn't test as much as we would have liked to here, we didn't make a lot of changes but in the end the guys performed brilliantly and worked well with the team. There's still stuff we have to fix, but considering we have a new bike and new riders we are pretty satisfied and confident.
“We know we still have a lot of jobs to do but we will get them done. In the end we have only had three months with this new bike so we have done a great job! We will have more performance from the bike in Phillip Island. Tom did a really good job yesterday, looking to find a good set up without pushing too much and Ben was consistently fast and on the pace. In the end to be in the front with both riders is very positive!” he concluded.